Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, without question one of the most powerful, eloquent speeches in the American canon, consists of only 272 words and was delivered in less than three minutes.
Compare Lincoln’s far less well known, but nevertheless eloquent address in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854. The Peoria Address, as it came to be known, consists of over 17,000 words and took Lincoln three hours and ten minutes to deliver.
The Peoria Address was a response to passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which voided a restriction on the extension of slavery that had been part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The speech marked Lincoln’s reentry into politics and thrust him into the national debate over slavery.
For present purposes, the Peoria Address is relevant to understanding the meaning of Independence Day. Indeed, Lincoln grounded his extended argument against slavery firmly in the philosophy and principles expounded in the Founders’ Declaration of 1776, not the Constitution of 1787. [Read More]